By Nicole Oliver
On September 17, immigration detainees launched a strike over detention conditions at the Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, Ontario. Due to the forthcoming closure of the Toronto West Detention Centre, 191 immigration detainees were relocated to the maximum-security facility known colloquially as the “Lindsay Superjail”.
Part of the detainees protest action has included a hunger strike. The demands of the striking immigration detainees include: “Better access to medical care and social workers, cheaper phone calls and access to international calling cards (many have family overseas), access to better food, like the food on the non-immigration ranges, an end to constant lockdowns, keep the improved canteen program going, better access to legal aid and legal services, and granting of specific requests to move individuals to facilities nearer to their families, legal resources, and social services.1
According to the group No One Is Illegal-Toronto, “Between 2004 and 2011, 82,000 people were locked up in immigration detention. At least another 13,000 have been imprisoned since 2011. Just this year 289 of the detainees were children, many of them under the age of 10.”2
Back in June of 2012, the Conservative government’s Bill C-31, entitled the “Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act”, came into force. This bill, championed by then Immigration minister Jason Kenney, brought about dramatic changes to Canada’s refugee determination system (which came into force on December 15th, 2012) and included provisions requiring that biometric data (fingerprints and photo) be collected as part of a temporary resident visa, work permit, and study permit application amongst other things.3
A community worker in Montreal who assists individuals in precarious immigration situations stated that, through Bill C-31 and Canada’s move toward increasing detention for migrants, the government appears to be making it more and more difficult and unattractive to come to Canada and claim protection. “That the only country ever awarded the Nansen Refugee Award by the United Nations is moving in this direction is a troubling sign for refugee protection on an international level”, she adds.
Under Bill C-31, appointed Immigration Ministers have the power to designate refugee source countries as “generally considered safe”. The Canadian Council for Refugees holds that “The Minister’s opinion is not dependent on expert opinion regarding country conditions, nor need the Minister take account of the differential risks faced by certain minorities in a country that is ‘safe’ for some, but not for others”.4
Additionally, with the introduction of Bill C-31, Clause 10 contains rulings of how Ministers are to proceed with “irregular arrivals”. “Irregular arrivals” according to Immigration Canada may include a group of people who arrive together in Canada. The Minister can designate a group as an “irregular arrival” for one of these reasons: suspicion of human smuggling or trafficking involving a criminal organization or terrorist group or the border authorities are not able to assess group members in a timely way regarding their identities or admissibility. Much criticism has been raised that such a policy appears targeted at particular groups of refugee claimants, such as Tamil and Roma peoples. Under Clause 10, those deemed irregular arrivals face mandatory detention, which includes children under 16-years of age. There are other stipulations under this clause that result in what some migrant justice groups label as a “two tiered refugee system” that arbitrarily distinguishes between “regular” and “irregular” arrivals.
When asked if her organization had formulated an official opinion on the so-called “two tiered” refugee system and as to whether the changes made seemed to be targeted at particular groups, the community worker responded “to be honest, due to the current context and our limited resources, we are in survival mode and really focusing on individual case work. It’s hard to focus on the big picture when we have to work so hard on ensuring that individuals have timely access to accurate information about their rights and, albeit limited, recourses in an ever-changing system.”
The community worker did note that they have observed that “persons of Mexican descent are especially hit hard” with the changes being made after the implementation of Bill C-31. She cites that “over 1000 Mexican refugee claimants were accepted by the Immigration and Refugee Board in 2011”, yet Mexico has been placed on the Designated Country of Origin list by the immigration minister as, in his opinion, it is “generally considered safe”. She explains “that many folks coming from Mexico have very compelling humanitarian reasons to remain in Canada. For those whose cases do not fit within the narrow definition of a refugee, their recourses have been drastically reduced.” For example, failed DCO claimants who submitted their claim after December 15th 2012 do not have access to the Refugee Appeal Division, cannot apply for a work permit within the first 6 months of their arrival in Canada, have very limited health care coverage and do not benefit from a stay of removal if they choose to access their only recourse, a judicial review at the federal court.
The worker concludes our chat by emphasizing that, “our newest concern is with proposed changes being made to the family reunification process where the definition of a dependent child would be drastically narrowed beginning in January 2014”. She explains that the “general trend is devaluing family reunification, which has always been a priority for the Canadian government, and moving towards viewing family reunification through an economic lens”. In the Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement for this proposal (now archived), the government explains “that older dependent children (those who arrive between the ages of 19 and 21) have lower economic outcomes than those who arrive in Canada at a younger age (between 15 and 18 years old)….that older immigrants have a more challenging time fully integrating into the Canadian labour market; this is more evident for immigrants who are not selected based on their own merits (e.g. dependent children).”5 This policy direction clearly demonstrates that a family’s worth under the Harper government is purely economical. Such shortsighted capitalist lenses will result in families who have been waiting years to be reunited remaining separated indefinitely.
by Denise Cordova and Nicole Oliver
The dedicated community organizer, Julian Ichim from Kitchener-Waterloo, appeared in court on September 30 facing charges held against him for blogging about his personal experiences with an undercover police officer in the year that lead up to the Toronto G20 protests. Arguments were put forward that the charges should be dismissed because the Crown is over-prosecuting the case.
Julian Ichim is a 33-year-old former University of Waterloo student. He has been a community activist and organizer for over a decade, positively changing the communities he has worked with. He started one of the first youth-run youth drop-in centers in Kitchener, assisted in creating youth harm reduction programs, coordinated addictions programs and anti-poverty initiatives, helped run free food programs, among an exhaustive list of initiatives.
But his strong political and social conscience has come at a high price.
In light of the G20 Summit in Toronto from June 26-27, 2010 many activist groups prepared to take that opportunity to protest under the banner of various causes, including fighting poverty and capitalism. So for a year and a half prior to the Summit, undercover police infiltrated protest groups planning G20 demonstrations. In Kitchener-Waterloo and Guelph, two undercover officers, started spending time with activists and Ichim unwittingly became friends with one of the undercover officers. That is, until he was arrested on June 26, 2010 hours before the G20 Summit even began. He was charged with conspiracy to commit mischief. Ichim never received the police synopsis (police version of what happened and why he was charged) nor was he told where or when he allegedly counseled or conspired to commit indictable offenses. These charges were later dropped.
Ichim was not able to speak publicly about his brutal arrest on June 26, being persecuted for his Marxist political ideology, nor about his feelings after having been deceived by the officer who he considered to be a personal friend. Neither was he able to speak about the most difficult part of it all, having lost his mother to cancer during this process. So he decided to start his own blog in November 2011 in an attempt to tell his story, about the G20 among many other things.
One month later, he was criminalized just for speaking out. The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) asked Julian to remove one of his posts where he referred to the undercover police officer. The cop identity was never reveled. But standing by his principles and his belief in freedom of speech, he refused to remove his post and was therefore charged by the police with three counts of disobeying a court order.
According to Ichim “the purpose of the motion for today was to challenge the Crown’s chosen path; to proceed with indictment. There were other options available, yet the Crown chose not to use those options.”
The charges Ichim faced could result in up to two years in prison, which argues Ichim “is clearly a case of over prosecution due to the fact that I took a political stand”.
The Judge for the trial, Justice Michael Quigley ruled the Crown could not proceed by indictment based on legal principles, although he refused to acknowledge the political grounds at the core of Ichim’s defense.
“It is important Mr. Ichim specifically understand that there is absolutely no finding being made here of improper motive or improper conduct by the Crown,” said Quigley.
Despite the judge’s words, Ichim, a long-time activist with dozens of arrests under his belt, said the decision is an important victory in fighting charges he claims are politically motivated.
Ichim has told BASICSNEWS.CA that he believes the charges were pursued so as to intimidate other protestors.
Still pending are claims in a $4-million lawsuit that Ichim is making against the undercover officer, the province and the Toronto police force.
“The high police presence in our neighbourhood has resulted in an unfair and disproportionate targeting of people living here,” says VANDU Community Organizer/ Volunteer Coordinator Aiyanas Ormond. “By criminalizing people for non-criminal behaviour like jaywalking, vending and panhandling, the VPD is actually harming our community, causing increased stress, economic hardship and incarceration for people who are already among the poorest and most marginalized in the city.”
“Jaywalking is common behaviour across the city,” continues Ormond. “Only in the DTES is this behaviour disproportionately and discriminatorily criminalized. The VPD is covering up this unfair practice by claiming that their ticketing of the DTES residents is intended to promote pedestrian safety. But the VPD provide no evidence that bylaw enforcement either discourages jaywalking or increases pedestrian safety – because there is none. Quite the opposite, by the VPD’s own account, DTES pedestrian strikes have decreased during a period when VPD ticketing for jaywalking also decreased.”
“We do have a very good guide for improving pedestrian safety in the CoV funded VANDU Pedestrian Safety Report. The implementation of some of these recommendations – inadequate and piecemeal – has had a positive impact on pedestrian safety in our community. Enforcement of jaywalking bylaws is not one of the recommendations because there is no evidence that it improves pedestrian safety! The measure that has had the biggest impact, the 30km zone on Hastings, was explicitly opposed by the Vancouver Police Department. So the VPD’s supposed concern for the safety of our community members is really a smokescreen to justify existing, discriminatory practice.”
Dave Hamm is a Downtown Eastside resident, the President of the VANDU Board of Directors and a vendor who has received a number of tickets for selling used and recycled goods.
“Most people in our neighbourhood don’t have yards,” says Hamm. “We are very poor people, trying to survive in really difficult economic times and we are being criminalized for it. If this was really about stolen goods or drug dealing as the police claim, there are laws on the books to deal with those issues. For us it seems like they are just criminalizing poor people trying to survive.”
“VANDU will be attending the Police Board meeting to demand that the Board – and Mayor Robertson in particular – exercise meaningful civilian control over the VPD, stop this discriminatory and oppressive practice, and implement real community based solutions to the real problems in our neighbourhood. We are tired of being used as justification for steadily increasing police budgets and not getting the real economic, social and planning supports that our community really needs.”
This Monday morning, the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) charged Constable James Forcillo for second-degree murder in the shooting of 18-year old Sammy Yatim on July 26, 2013. Various YouTube postings of the initial civilian footage clearly show that a distressed Yatim—armed only with a 3 inch blade, isolated in a streetcar and surrounded by Police—was of little threat to anyone prior to being shot 9 times and then tasered.
The ruling has been received with a mixture of shock, relief and jubilation. From Sammy’s family and friends came the joy of seeing some potential of justice emerging from the murder of their loved one. “The SIU charged the cop with 2nd degree murder!!! Good morning JUSTICE,” wrote Sammy’s sister Sarah over Twitter. Indeed, much of the commentary over social media shows the extent to which people were incensed by this tragedy, and relieved to see some sign that the perpetrator would be held accountable.
Shock, of course, because this type of ruling isn’t the norm. Forcillo is just the 7th police officer to be charged by the SIU with manslaughter or murder since 1990. Importantly, however, all previously charged officers have been cleared in court.
by Ajamu Nangwaya
“Organization is the weapon of the oppressed.” – Kwame Ture (aka Stokely Carmichael)
Racialized working-class communities and indigenous peoples know the daily reality of police violence and containment. We do not need the intervention of civil liberty organizations, criminology courses or exposure to police violence at a G20 Summit to become conscious of the fact that when the police serve and protect, we are not included within that protective cloak.
We are quite aware of the fact that the police serve and protect the interest of socially dominant groups, based on our experience of colonialism, white supremacy, patriarchy and capitalist exploitation. Our teachers are the scars, the memories of loved ones and comrades maimed or killed, the very presence of the police in our communities as an occupation army.
The killing of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of his killer, George Zimmerman, after a trial in Florida, inspired outrage and mobilization among Afrikan people and others of good conscience across North America. So did the Toronto police killing of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim, a case that reeks of excessive use of force against a racialized and mentally distressed youth.
The killing was caught on tape and widely circulated in the media. This killing has mobilized Toronto’s youth and others in the street and on blogs, Facebook pages and walls and twitter.
However, mobilizing around each case of police violence and then sitting down when the issue in no longer showing up in our Facebook newsfeed and in the mass media will not do much to tackle this oppressive behaviour. We need to organize on a 24/7 basis against police violence.
“Despite the pain Lilian Villanueva lives through each day, she has not quit… She is still here. She is still standing up for truth and justice in the case of her son’s death.” As Margess said those words, she looked over at Lilian Villanueva and her family and friends who stood beside a vigil set up to honour Lilian’s son, Fredy Villanueva.
A group of over a hundred people gathered on August 9th to commemorate the fifth anniversary of Fredy Villanueva’s death.
5 years ago in the very same parking lot, Lilian lost her son at the hands of a police officer.
The “police officer, … pulled out his gun and without warning, fired on three youth in his field of vision. Hitting Fredy Villanueva with two shots to the chest…Freddy Villanueva, died two hours later. He was 18 years old at the time,” said Alex Popovic.
The government was forced to set up a coroner’s inquest to investigate the murder. “All the witnesses who testified, except for the police officer Lapointe, said that the shots fired by Lapointe were not justified. and that the youth, never constituted a threat to the police officer. Even Lapointe’s police partner, who was right beside him, testified that she never feared for her life,” said Popovic.
Despite the testimonies, the police officer was cleared and was recently promoted to the Montreal SWAT.
Will Prosper, a community organizer, worries that policing “is going to be even more severe for citizens.”
His concerns were echoed by many at the gathering. A mother of four recounted a traumatizing event she and her children recently faced at the hands of the police. While another community member, looked into the crowd of people and listed a dozen people in the crowd who had been victims of police brutality.
When asked about what was needed to change the current state of police repression, Prosper said, “We need to mobilize the citizens… We need to shed light on what happened and to bring a different message from those groups that are in place to maintain the system that is oppressing us.”
“[The government funded groups] want us to think that everything is great. They make some cosmetic changes, but they are not addressing the true problems we have in our community,” said Prosper.
Onkwehon:we (Original Peoples) – Week in Review (August 5-11, 2013)
‘Onkwehonwe’ is a word used by Haudenosaunee peoples (also known as the Six Nations Confederacy) that means ‘original peoples’ and refers to all Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island (North America).
by Steve da Silva – Reproduced from the Two Row Times
Flood Evacuees of Siksika Nation Living in Prison Camp-Like Conditions
No smoking, no pets, no ‘vulgar language’, an imposed curfew and no ‘inappropriate clothing’ – such as women wearing shorts or tank tops. These are just a few of the ‘rules’ that flood evacuees of the Siksika First Nation are being subjected to after having to flee heavy flooding along the Bow River. While many regions affected by floodwaters that swept through Alberta in June 2013 have been quickly restored, members of Siksika Firs t Nation have been waiting weeks to return home, even after flood waters receded.
The Siksiká are one of the four nations of the ‘Blackfoot Confederacy,’ known as the Niitsítapi (‘Original People’) in the Blackfoot dialects. The ancestral lands of the Niitsítapi span much of southern Alberta, Saskatchewan, Montana, and part North Dakota.
CSIS, Aboriginal Affairs Involved in Widespread Surveillance During Idle No More
Recent reports attained by the Canadian Press through access-to-information requests reveal the extent to which Canada’s spy agency kept tabs on the Idle No More movement throughout December 2012 and January 2013. Aboriginal Affairs, CSIS, and the Integrated Terrorism Assessment Center (ITAC), cooperated in monitoring and creating ‘threat assessments’ of the Indigenous protests, of which they documented 439 over the two month period.
Investigative journalist Tim Groves of Toronto revealed in July 2013 that CSIS is currently deploying a recruitment strategy to bring on board more Aboriginal people and ‘visible minorities’. The spy agency’s internal reports revealed that they had 55 “Aboriginal employees” as of 2012, which they were seeking to increase to 111.
Beating of 24-year-old Innu man by Quebec police caught on camera
A video of two Quebec police (Sûreté du Québec) officers beating a 24-year-old Innu man in Unamen Shipu territory in northeastern Quebec has gone viral. The YouTube video shows Norbert Mestenapeo – who does not appear to be resisting – receiving multiple blows to the head. The assault occurred in La Romaine, an Innu First Nation community. Unamen Shipu had its own police force until 2008, when it could no longer operate due to budgetary constraints, at which point policing was taken over by Sûreté du Québec.
The incident has been seized upon by the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec to call for a return to Aboriginal policing of the community. Grand chief of Unamen Shipu, Raymond Bellefleur, said of the incident: “Police come here and they can’t speak the Montagnais language and they never stay for more than a week. How can you effectively patrol a place you know nothing about?”
APTN has license renewed for 5 years
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) renewed the ‘mandatory carriage’ license of APTN for another five years, providing the Aboriginal broadcaster with a place on basic cable and $38 million in funding that comes with it. APTN provides programming in 30 different Onkwehon:we languages, as well as English and French. APTN had applied for an increase of its subscriber fees from 25 to 40 cents, but received 31 cents per cable subscriber.
Sun Media, notorious for its rightwing anti-native, anti-working-class, and anti-immigrant editorializing, had its application for ‘mandatory carriage’ on basic cable rejected. But the CRTC’s compromise solution directed all television networks to offer all-Canadian national news services, which would encourage cable providers to pick up Sun Media in their basic cable packages.
Bella Laboucan-McLean is the latest victim on the long list of Onkwehon:we women who have been murdered, disappeared, or have died under suspicious circumstances in Canada. Laboucan-McLean, the young Sturgeon Lake Cree First Nation woman who had just graduated from Humber College, was found dead on July 20 after having plunging 31 storeys to the ground from a downtown Toronto condo she was visiting.
Two other women in their 20s have died in highly suspicious circumstances in Toronto this summer as well. Cheyenne Fox from Sheguiandah First Nation also plunged to her death from a condo in April. In May, Terra Gardner was killed by a freight train near Yonge and Summerhill after having received death threats at a time when she had been compelled to testify in an upcoming murder trial.
The United Nations Committee on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women will be sending special rapporteurs to Canada this summer and fall, finally responding to the awareness and pressure generated by years of work of grassroots Indigenous women and supporting activists who have drawn attention to the nearly 600 documented cases of missing or murdered Indigenous women.
Federal Conservative Justice Minister Peter McKay recently dismissed calls for a national Inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women that was backed by provincial and territorial leaders meeting at the Niagara-On-The-Lake Summit after their meeting with aboriginal leaders.
by Hassan Reyes
Many institutions in this country such as the Parliament and Senate are modeled after those of the United Kingdom.
Yet, in the wake of yet another homicide committed by Toronto Police, the question must be raised about why Canada has not emulated the Police institutions of the UK.
In England, Scotland, and Wales, standard duty police are unarmed.
Former British Prime Minister Robert Peel (1834-35, 1841-46) set about to reshape the policing institutions in England to make them more accountable and amenable to the public. Peel created a set of principles for policing, which included minimal use of force, in order to make the public more receptive to the police and their functions. The objective was not to make some sort of ‘peoples’ police force, but rather a sober analysis from a conservative politician that in order to effectively police a large, poor population, there needed to be measures put in place to reduce public hostility.
Since then, most Police officers have remained unarmed. There are Authorized Firearms Officers (AFO’s) who are trained and authorized to use firearms and are called in only under certain circumstances. With 6,756 AFO’s, the ratio of armed police officers in the UK is 10 per 100,000 compared to 180 per 100,000 inhabitants in Toronto.
Skeptics could point to the slightly lower homicide rate per capita in London as compared to Toronto, but the overall crime rate in Toronto is much lower, with 3,131 total crimes per 100,000 inhabitants compared to London’s 10,600 crimes per 100,000.
The UK is not the only example. Japan, Norway, Republic of Ireland, New Zealand, Iceland and a smattering of smaller islands also have unarmed police.
Surely, police officers would be against patrolling the streets without firearms? Not in the case of the UK. In a 2006 Officer/Arming survey by the Police Federation of England and Wales, 82% of respondents were against the routine arming of police.
Of course, the UK Police should not be glorified as a perfect model. Between 1993 and 2005, 30 people were nonetheless shot dead by AFO’s. In the aftermath of the World Trade Centre attacks, the UK Police adopted a ‘shoot to kill’ policy on the advice of Israeli and Sri Lankan security forces. This is not to mention also the role of police in the repression of Irish republican movement, trade unions (especially under Thatcher), racialized people (black youth in particular) and the poor in general.
However, what this does show is that there are other real world alternatives to giving every cop a gun and the problems that come with it. No amount of training – which Toronto Police Officers already receive in terms of dealing with a number of demographics and scenarios – will resolve the hostile, arrogant, and increasingly lethal attitudes and actions of Toronto Police.
Taking away an officer’s gun may not address the sort of attitudes that may be prevalent among officers, but it does reduce their ability to act upon them with the brutal and fatal results that we have witnessed too many times.
 “Statistics on the police use of firearms in England and Wales 2011-12″. Home Office. 2011-07-11. Retrieved 2013-08-06.
 Robert Verkaik; Jason Bennetto (21 October 2005). “Shot dead by police 30. Officers convicted 0″. London: The Independent.
By Prof. JOSE MARIA SISON
Chairperson, International League of Peoples’ Struggle
We, the International Coordinating Committee of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle, applaud the resounding success of the 19-21 July International Conference for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines and all the related activities. We congratulate the organizers and all the participants. We are proud to have co-sponsored the conference and given our view on the relationship of the imperialist policy of neoliberalism and the worsening human rights situation in the Philippines.
We are deeply pleased with the reaffirmation of human rights and the ventilation of human rights violations in the civil, political, economic, social and cultural spheres. We are moved by the new resolve to work for justice and the end of the reign of impunity and to promote and strengthen international solidarity for the purpose. The conference organizers and so many human rights and peace organizations are already disseminating the information about the proceedings and the decisions taken.
We condemn the US-Aquino regime for having undertaken a series of hostile and repressive actions against the conference and its participants. The conference organizers uncovered and apprehended two intelligence agents of the US-Aquino regime trying to penetrate and surveil the conference. They apprehended one more undercover agent from the 24th Infantry Battalion, 7th Infantry Division of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, who was surreptitiously taking pictures of conference participants during the mass rally on 22 July. Worse, the security forces of the regime assaulted the mass rally which local and foreign conference participants joined in order to protest human rights violations and demand justice.
One of the rally participants, Thomas van Beersum of the Netherlands, was truncheoned and injured. He approached a stationary policeman to demand why his armed mates were beating up the peaceful rallyists. Subsequently, he became the target of a jingoistic campaign of vilification by the regime through the yellow mass media, military psywar units and letter writing brigades. He was depicted as an aggressive foreign interloper and was publicly threatened with physical harm and deportation on the pages of major newspapers, blogs and social network.
The chauvinist campaign against Thomas van Beersum was used to draw attention away from the violent attack on the rallyists and the scores of bloodied victims and to ridicule the patriotic and progressive forces for engaging in mass actions under supposed foreign influence. To underscore the jingoistic line, the regime repeatedly threatened to arrest, investigate and deport ten foreign delegates to the conference on human rights and peace.
The regime persisted in hounding and harassing van Beersum. When he was about to board his plane for Amsterdam on 6 August, he was arrested by Philippine immigration authorities and prevented from departing with his Filipina fiancee. He was detained and made to miss his flight just to allow the Aquino regime to have the malicious pleasure of deporting him and placing him on a blacklist to prevent him from returning to the Philippines, the country of his fiancee and whose people he loves.
Meanwhile, leading Filipino participants in the conference like Satur Ocampo, Liza Maza, Teddy Casiño, Rafael Mariano, Edre Olalia and others were being charged with the criminal offense of disrupting their own rally against the blatant lies and omissions in the so-called state of the nation address (SONA) of Benigno S. Aquino III. Under the persistent class dictatorship of the big compradors and landlords in the Philippines, there is really no fundamental difference between the blatantly autocratic rule of Marcos and the pseudo-democratic rule of his successors, including the redundant Aquinos. They are exploitative and oppressive and engage in gross and systematic violations of human rights.
It is completely preposterous that the big comprador-landlord Aquino regime, which is a notorious puppet of US imperialism, tries to make itself look patriotic by carrying out a jingoistic and chauvinist campaign of vilification against visiting foreigners who are in solidarity with the Filipino people in their struggle for national and social liberation against US imperialism and the local reactionary classes chiefly represented by Aquino.
[Basics Community News Service is a member organization of ILPS-Canada]